Kent State is a tough job, maybe the toughest anywhere in the country, the Golden Flashes have won more than six games just once since 1987, so it was really no surprise that incoming HC Sean Lewis struggled in his first year, going 2-10 (with one of the two wins vs an FCS).
The former Syracuse offensive wiz has drawn comparisons to Western Michigan’s messiah PJ Fleck thanks to his young age and energetic style. Those aren’t the only similarities though, both punched way above their weight class when it came to recruiting, and Fleck also dealt with a rough start, going 1-11 in his first year.
All that isn’t to say that we’ll see the Golden Flashes in a New Year’s Six bowl game anytime soon, but when you are in as dire of a situation as this program is, it can be worth it to take a flyer on an unproven guy, and you shouldn’t get discouraged after a tough start.
Kent State’s offense took a huge step forward in 2018, almost doubling their PPG (although a lot of that was due to a rapidly increased tempo). They return pretty much everyone from that team including former four-star Auburn recruit QB Woody Barrett, who showed flashes (no pun intended) last year as a dual-threat option to run the high-powered system, but made a lot of careless mistakes including nine interceptions.
RB Jo-El Shaw (657 yards, seven touchdowns, 4.8 YPA) was really great last season and will return, hopefully with more touches than he got in 2018 (138). His #2 is gone but four starters return on the line and T Adam Gregoire also returns after missing all of last year with an injury
The receiving corps is really solid, they just don’t have a consistent QB to catch passes from. The top three all return, including speedy slot Mike Carrigan (13.3 YPC, five touchdowns) as well as Antwan Dixon and Isaiah McKoy, who both averaged over ten yards a catch last season. Lon’kevious McFadden is a name to watch as a bigger target (6’4″) who showed some real signs as a freshman before redshirting.
This offense should take another big step forward as they get almost everybody back and as guys have more time to adjust to the new system. I expect this unit to shine in 2019.
The offense improved last year but the defense took a step back, apparently not dealing well with the increased tempo that the offense played with and the switch from a 4-3 to an aggressive 3-4, giving up 6.3 YPP and 36.8 PPG.
There is a decent bit back from last year’s squad including Jamal Parker and Keith Sherald Jr. in the secondary, along with seniors Matt Bahr (who is a sixth-year) and Nick Faulkner on the second level, two steady hands with experience that can lead this defense.
The line does look a little sketchy, though. Seniors Theo Majette and Dominic Hill at least will do a solid job of plugging up the middle, the question lies in if the Golden Flashes will be able to rely on any real pass rush.
The defense doesn’t look great but there are at least reps returning and they should improve as they gain a second year of experience in DC Tom Kaufman’s system, although it would be hard to take much of a step back from last year.
It is going to take a few years to get things going before this team is ready to compete, but that’s ok, this is a really tough job. Lewis has done well laying the groundwork, especially when it comes to recruiting, and this team looks well poised for the future.
The present looks less promising though. The Golden Flashes are 12+ point underdogs in five games, meaning they’d essentially have to run the table outside of those to make a bowl.
I think this team can compete as an average level MAC team, but the non-conference schedule is tough, with games @ Arizona State, Auburn, and Wisconsin. Even their FCS game is tough as they face projected top-15 squad Kennesaw State.
The talent is there on the offensive side of the ball, as well as in the secondary, but the rest of the defense and Barrett will need to step up if this team wants to compete for a bowl, which they’d likely need a winning record in conference play to have any real shot at.
|Date||Opponent||OPP. RANK||Proj. Margin|
|29-Aug||at Arizona State||33||-17.7|
|29-NOV||at EASTERN MICHIGAN||106||-5.8|
Average Projected Record: 4.7 wins, 7.3 losses (3.4 wins, 4.6 losses)